I met Marlon Peterson in 2009, a few months after he'd completed ten years of a 12-year sentence for first degree assault and third degree weapons possession. While Marlon was inside, I read his blog and some of the correspondences he'd exchanged with Nadia Lopez's eighth graders. I was amazed not simply by Marlon's generous precision in the letters, but by how descriptive and honest Ms. Lopez's students responded to his prose. Without a drop of condescension, Marlon's letters encouraged the students to reckon with their thoughts, feelings, senses, and imaginations.
In the Gothamist documentary above, we meet Dave, Bailey, Bucket, Jon, Mark, Tara, and Steve-O, a group of squatters who once lived in an unattended house in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. In June of this year, their landlord kicked them out and sold the building—you may have heard that the neighborhood is gentrifying—but before that, filmmaker Jeff Seal got a glimpse of the way they lived.
My first morning in Bed-Stuy was the most amazing morning of my life. I sat on the stoop and watched as the neighborhood stretched and yawned. The sun peeked over the brownstones, as weed smoke wafted through the air like the smell of breakfast bacon. Rastas swaggered up the block, their hair stuffed into stockings, crowned high on their heads. Little boys in blue pants and untucked white shirts, chased little girls in princess dresses down the sidewalk, laughing. Their mothers strutted behind them, shouldering heavy purses and gripping tight to bibles. A shirtless man banged at something underneath his car.
It's rare to watch a stoner comedy and think that its director will make a great interview. But Newlyweeds, writer-director Shaka King's independent comedy/drama (opening today at New York's Film Forum), is a rare kind of movie, one that depicts lives and relationships you see infrequently (if at all, on film), and there's an urgency to King's voice underneath the weedy, mellow vibe.